By Shaun Casey
ANY other season, the Antrim ladies wouldn’t have been able to cope or compete given the number of significant injuries they have suffered, but boss Emma Kelly insists the squad depth is the key to their recent success.
The Division Four league and Ulster Intermediate champions face Clare this Sunday (Glennon Brothers Pearse Park 2pm) and are one win away from an appearance in the All-Ireland Intermediate final.
Their convincing quarter-final victory over Monaghan, 5-6 to 0-8, set up a semi-final showdown with the Banner County, but that game almost came at an all-too-common cost.
“Obviously, we had a couple of injury scares last week with Orlaith Prenter and Lara (Dahunsi) both going down, but they’re fine and raring to go,” said manager Kelly.
“We’ve taken that many hits this year, the first league game it was Saoirse Tennyson and her ACL and then the league final in the warm-up it was Blaithin (Cahill) and her MCL.
“Then just after we played Tyrone it was Niamh McIntosh with her broken foot and after the Westmeath game, we had Anna Mulholland and her dislocated elbow.
“You’re just thinking at that stage, are we cursed? Aoife Kelly in the Tyrone game with her ACL too, but to still get to where we are now with all those injuries, it’s brilliant.
“Most of those would have been starters as well. It’s one out of our full-back line, one from our half-back line, our midfield and then we’ve lost Theresa (Mellon) for one game with her hamstring.
“If that had been any other year, we wouldn’t have had the strength in depth to have somebody to step it, so that shows the calibre that we have and the belief and confidence that we have in each other.
“They have all stepped up and I’m just heartbroken for all those girls that are injured at the minute. Any other year we wouldn’t be going anywhere but this year you have people to come in so that’s good to see.
“Some of the injuries, they’ve planted the seed in the other girls that yes, they are massive losses, but we’re fine and we have people to step up. It’s never good to get injuries but at the same time, girls have been getting their chances to have a go and they’ve really stepped up.”
The mood in the camp is soaring and the Saffrons are “confident” in their own ability, they’re “flying in training” and believe they can make it through to the decider.
“We gave them Tuesday off (after the Monaghan win), so Friday was the first time we’d been together since the game. It was just about resetting and going again.
The girls are confident, they know themselves that they’re doing something that no one expected them to, and everything is a bonus. We’re quietly confident, there’s no point going into the game thinking you can’t do it, so the girls are up for it and they’re flying in training.”